Greenbelt, Maryland – A superseding indictment charging members of La Mara Salvatrucha (MS-13) with racketeering conspiracy involving murder, extortion, and money laundering was unsealed today as to eight defendants. A federal grand jury in Maryland returned the indictment on December 22, 2021. The superseding indictment charges the following defendants with racketeering conspiracy:
Brayan Alexander Torres, a/k/a “Spooky,” 28, of Adelphi, Maryland;
Agustino Eugenio Rivas Rodriguez, a/k/a “Cipitio,” “Chuchin,” “Angel,” “Terrible,” and “Small,” 24, of Silver Spring, Maryland;
Hernan Yanes-Rivera, a/k/a “Shrek,” “Recio,” and “Garra,” 20, of Adelphi;
Franklyn Edgardo Sanchez, a/k/a “Freddy,” “Magic,” “Miclo,” and “Delinquente,” 24, of Adelphi;
Brian Samir Zelaya Mejia, a/k/a “Flaco,” “Catrachito,” “Calacas,” “Chispa,” and “Directo,” 23, of Hyattsville, Maryland;
Miguel Angel Ramirez, a/k/a “Majin Buu” and “El Gordo,” 21, of Adelphi;
Jorge Isaac Argueta Chica, a/k/a “Timido” and “Enano,” 21, of Gaithersburg, Maryland; and
Diego Fabrisio Angel-Artiga, a/k/a “Stewie,” 22, of Hyattsville.
The superseding indictment also charges Yanes-Rivera, Torres, Rivas Rodriguez, Zelaya Mejia, Ramirez, Argueta Chica, and Angel-Artiga with conspiracy to interfere with commerce by extortion.
The indictment was announced by United States Attorney for the District of Maryland Erek L. Barron; Assistant Attorney General Kenneth A. Polite, Jr. of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division; Special Agent in Charge Thomas J. Sobocinski of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, Baltimore Field Office; Special Agent in Charge James R. Mancuso of Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) Baltimore; and Chief Malik Aziz of the Prince George’s County Police Department.
“Witness retaliation will not be tolerated,” said U.S. Attorney Erek L. Barron. “As alleged in the superseding indictment unsealed today, these MS-13 members not only extorted money from community members to support the gang—both in Maryland and in El Salvador—they also allegedly killed an individual who was cooperating with law enforcement. The U.S. Attorney’s Office in Maryland and our local and state partners are working together to remove violent gang members to keep our communities safe from the threat of MS-13.”
“MS-13 uses violence and intimidation to prey upon vulnerable communities,” said Assistant Attorney General Kenneth A. Polite, Jr. of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division. “The Criminal Division is committed to dismantling MS-13 and protecting all communities from the harm alleged in this indictment.”
According to court documents, La Mara Salvatrucha gang, also known as “MS-13”, is an international criminal organization composed primarily of immigrants or descendants of immigrants from El Salvador, with members operating in the State of Maryland, including Montgomery County, Prince George’s County, and Frederick County, and throughout the United States. In Maryland and elsewhere MS-13 members are organized in “cliques,” smaller groups that operate in a specific city or region. MS-13 members are required to commit acts of violence, both to maintain membership and discipline within the gang and against rival gangs. One of the principal rules of MS-13 is that its members must attack and kill rivals, known as “chavalas,” whenever possible.
These defendants allegedly were members or associates of Weedams Locos Salvatrucha, an MS-13 clique operating primarily in the Adelphi, Maryland area. As alleged, the defendants extorted multiple victims, from whom they collected extortion payments, or “rent,” on a regular basis. Several of the defendants used the “rent” proceeds and other gang revenues to unlawfully transfer money to MS-13 associates in El Salvador. The superseding indictment also alleges that Yanes-Rivera and Sanchez, acting at the direction of senior MS-13 members, murdered an individual in retaliation for the victim’s cooperation with law enforcement.
If convicted, the defendants face maximum sentences ranging from twenty years to life in federal prison for the racketeering conspiracy and twenty years in federal prison for the extortion conspiracy. A federal district court judge will determine any sentence after considering the U.S. Sentencing Guidelines and other statutory factors. The defendants are expected to have arraignments beginning next week in U.S. District Court in Greenbelt.
An indictment is not a finding of guilt. An individual charged by indictment is presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty at some later criminal proceedings.
Anyone with information about MS-13 is encouraged to provide their tips to law enforcement. The FBI and Homeland Security Investigations both have nationwide tiplines that you can call to report what you know. You can reach the FBI at 1-866-STP-MS13 (1-866-787-6713), or you can call HSI at 1-866-DHS-2-ICE.
This case is part of Project Safe Neighborhoods (PSN), a program bringing together all levels of law enforcement and the communities they serve to reduce violent crime and make our neighborhoods safer for everyone. PSN, an evidence-based program proven to be effective at reducing violent crime, is the centerpiece of the Department of Justice’s violent crime reduction efforts. Through PSN, a broad spectrum of stakeholders work together to identify the most pressing violent crime problems in the community and develop comprehensive solutions to address them. As part of this strategy, PSN focuses enforcement efforts on the most violent offenders and partners with locally based prevention and reentry programs for lasting reductions in crime.
This case is also part of an Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Force (OCDETF) investigation. OCDETF identifies, disrupts, and dismantles the highest-level criminal organizations that threaten the United States using a prosecutor-led, intelligence-driven, multi-agency approach that leverages the strengths of federal, state, and local law enforcement agencies against criminal networks.
United States Attorney Erek L. Barron and Assistant Attorney General Kenneth A. Polite, Jr. commended the FBI, HSI, and the Prince George’s County Police Department for their work in the investigation, and thanked the Montgomery County Police Department and Immigration and Customs Enforcement – Enforcement and Removal Operations and for their assistance. Mr. Barron thanked Assistant U.S. Attorneys Joseph Baldwin and Joel Crespo, and Trial Attorney Brendan Woods of the Criminal Division’s Organized Crime and Gang Section, who are prosecuting the federal case.
For more information on the Maryland U.S. Attorney’s Office, its priorities, and resources available to help the community, please visit https://www.justice.gov/usao-md/project-safe-neighborhoods-psnexile and https://www.justice.gov/usao-md/community-outreach.
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